Once upon a time I ran a news site, now I just have opinions on the news. 

Good morning, RVA: Final Council meeting of the year, budget analysis, and it’s full of stars

Good morning, RVA! It's 39 °F, and highs today are way up—up around 60 °F! You can expect warmer weather for the next bunch of days.

Water cooler

City Council will meet tonight for the final time of 2018! And oh what a time we’ve had! On the agenda (PDF), which could, of course, shift at any moment like sand through an hourglass: Sticking up to $1 million into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund via some expiring tax exemptions on tax delinquent properties (ORD. 2018-238), requiring a strategic homelessness plan (ORD. 2018-241), creating a Navy Hill Development advisory commission plus some publicly hearing dates for the coliseum redevelopment project (ORD. 2018-297), and a handful of housing-related ordinances via Councilmember Robertson. It’s a meaty agenda that has only grown meatier over time due to this Council’s prime legislative strategy of “continue this paper forever and ever amen.” It’s not my favorite strategy as it wrecks the public process and makes it harder for folks to advocate for or against all sorts of things. At some point, you either have the votes or you don’t and you shouldn’t keep something on the agenda for months and months hoping that the political picture changes.

The Gov continues to pre-announce his budget plans, the latest an investment in universal broadband infrastructure. Over at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jeff Schapiro provides the longform political take behind Northam’s strategically-timed press releases 💸. And, finally, the Commonwealth Institute digs in and gives us some analysis on the education-related components of the coming amendments to the 2018-2020 budget—which, don’t forget, has still got to make it through the General Assembly early next year. I enjoy this last piece because it gets to the core of some of the problems facing the Commonwealth (and also the solution to a lot of those problems): “So long as Virginia is 48th in the revenues our state and local governments are collecting relative to personal income, then these funding challenges will remain for schools.”

Hey, this seems like good news: The Virginia Supreme Court has finally acknowledged “the inconvenience of having to leave a phone in an unsecured location outside of a courthouse” because of the no-cellphones-in-the-courthouse policy. It’s about time! This is a policy that makes life harder than it needs to be for folks who don’t drive a car to a courthouse, and I’m glad to see it start to change.

Today’s fun picture from /r/rva is this spooooooky nighttime photo of the Belvidere bridge covered in mist.

In space news, we’re just past the peak of the Geminid Meteor Shower and we’ve got an opportunity to see Comet 46P/Wirtanen with some small binoculars (depending on the amount of light pollution you’re dealing with). If we get a clear night in the next couple of days, take a few of minutes to head outside and look up into the universe.

This morning's patron longread

For the Poor, Obamacare Can Reduce Late Rent Payments

From Patron Kelly comes this piece about the tangential impacts of having health insurance, which, when you think about it, makes a ton of sense.

Oh, also! Last week I stupidly conflated Virginia’s Medicaid expansion with the ending of opening enrollment for Obamacare. Thankfully a reader set me straight: You can definitely still enroll in Medicaid today, so don’t not take advantage of this excellent opportunity if you heard some dude go on about the last date to enroll in the healthcare marketplace.

When Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the decision in 2012 to uphold the Affordable Care Act, the court set the stage for a natural experiment in economics. His majority opinion in NFIB v. Sebelius invalidated the part of the law that would have penalized states that refused to participate in the Medicaid expansion, making it optional for states to extend coverage for the most vulnerable Americans. As a result, poor adults in some states would receive health insurance, while poor adults in others would go without. The court’s carveout made it possible to compare the haves with the have-nots across state lines. A new study does precisely that—and finds that access to subsidized health insurance dramatically boosts financial outcomes. Those who were able to acquire health insurance under Obamacare’s subsidized exchanges were 25 percent less likely to miss paying their rent or mortgage on time.

If you’d like your longread to show up here, go chip in a couple bucks on the ol’ Patreon.

Good morning, RVA: A bananas meeting, the school closing thought process, and Chinese bushclover

Good morning, RVA: East Marshall Street Well, an intent to rezone, and pipeline permits